Mrs Warren's Profession
Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 10 Mar
Easy truisms about the corruption that comes with money come as readily to the lips of those in authority today as they did in 1893, when Shaw’s classic first appeared, only to banned for for 30 years. That money should be roundly condemned by those who have a surfeit of it shouldn’t really surprise us though - Shaw himself often reminded us that this was the easiest strategy for them to hang on to it.
Here, it’s less what’s done for money that is condemned, than the narrowing down of options for women who require it. When young Vivie Warren (Emma Stansfield) learns from her mother (Paola Dionisotti) that her comfortable upbringing and education are the product of a living made through prostitution, she’s realistic enough to understand. But her young beau Frank (Antony Eden), artist friend Praed (John Bett) and villainous Sir George Crofts (Dougal Lee), have different takes oin the story.
Tony Cownie’s accomplished production sets itself in front of Neil Murray’s design, a wall of quotations from the play itself which emphasises the language so key to the play’s effect. Shaw’s witty and compelling play of debate is just that, opening up, with its author’s typical unsentimental logic, a multitude of possibilities, never giving any side of the argument an easy run. Thus it is that Stansfield’s subtly nuanced and deftly played Vivie is not necessarily easy to like; instead we have a toughly pragmatic, often rather cold heroine. So too, Eden’s boyfriend is both charming and dispiritingly feckless, the performer capturing the ambivalence nicely.